1630
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Muses Elizium I: The First Nimphall.

The Muses Elizium, lately discovered, by a new way over Parnassus. The Passages therein, being the Subject of ten sundry Nymphalls, leading three Divine Poemes, Noahs Floud. Moses, his Birth and Miracles. David and Golia. By Michael Drayton Esquire.

Michael Drayton


In the first Nimphall, Michael Drayton establishes that ladies in Elizium behave rather differently than their human counterparts.

W. W. Greg: "The Muses' Elizium is in truth the culmination of a long sequence of pastoral work. Of this I have already discussed the beginnings when dealing with the native pastoral impulse; and however much it was influenced at a later date by foreign models it never submitted to the yoke of orthodox tradition, and to the end retained much of its freshness. The early anthologies are full of this sort of verse, the song-books are full of it, and so are the romances and plays.... In this pervading impulse of pure and spontaneous pastoral the soul of what is sweet and winning in things common and familiar as our household fairies blends with the fresh glamour of early love and the dainty delights of an ideal world, where despair is only less sweet than fruition, and love only less divine than chastity ... a world, in short, in which the nymphs may strew the laureate hearse, not only with all the flowers and fruits of earth, but with the Amaranth of paradise and the stars of heaven if the fancy takes them. Of a spirit compounded of these elements and of its quintessence are the 'Nymphals' of the Muses' Elizium" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 107.

Tillotson and Newdigate: "'Rodope' and 'Dorida' (who do not appear again) are perhaps named from Rhodope, a nymph in Homer's Hymn to Demeter (l. 422) and Doris (acc. Dorida), mother to the Nereids. The conceit of inventoried bodily beauties is trite, but is given a new turn by its division between two nymphs, vying in compliment" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:221.



This Nimphall of delights doth treat,
Choice beauties, and proportions neat,
Of curious shapes, and dainty features
Describd in two most perfect creatures.

RODOPE. DORIDA.

When Phoebus with a face of mirth,
Had flong abroad his beames,
To blanch the bosome of the earth,
And glaze the gliding streames.
Within a goodly Mertle grove,
Upon that hallowed day
The Nimphes to the bright Queene of love
Their vowes were usde to pay.
Faire Rodope and Dorida
Met in those sacred shades,
Then whom the Sunne in all his way,
Nere saw two daintier Maids.
And through the thickets thrild his fires,
Supposing to have seene
The soveraigne Goddesse of desires,
Or Joves Emperious Queene:
Both of so wondrous beauties were,
In shape both so excell,
That to be paraleld elsewhere,
No judging eye could tell.
And their affections so surpasse,
As well it might be deemd,
That th' one of them the other was,
And but themselves they seem'd.
And whilst the Nimphes that neare this place,
Disposed were to play
At Barly-breake and Prison-base,
Doe passe the time away:
This peerlesse payre together set,
The other at their sport,
None neare their free discourse to let,
Each other thus they court,

DORIDA.
My sweet, my soveraigne Rodope,
My deare delight, my love,
That Locke of hayre thou sentst to me,
I to this Bracelet wove;
Which brighter every day doth grow
The longer it is worne,
As its delicious fellowes doe,
Thy Temples that adorne.

RODOPE.
Nay had I thine my Dorida,
I would them so bestow,
As that the winde upon my way,
Might backward make them flow,
So should it in its greatst excesse
Turne to becalmed ayre,
And quite forget all boistrousnesse
To play with every hayre.

DORIDA.
To me like thine had nature given,
A Brow, so Archt, so cleere,
A Front, wherein so much of heaven
Doth to each eye appeare,
The world should see, I would strike dead
The Milky way that's now,
And say that Nectar Hebe shed
Fell all upon my Brow.

RODOPE.
O had I eyes like Doridaes,
I would inchant the day,
And make the Sunne to stand at gaze,
Till he forgot his way:
And cause his Sister Queene of Streames,
When so I list by night;
By her much blushing at my Beames
T' eclipse her borrowed light.

DORIDA.
Had I a Cheeke like Rodopes,
In midst of which doth stand,
A Grove of Roses, such as these,
In such a snowy land:
I would make the Lilly which we now
So much for whitenesse name,
As drooping downe the head to bow,
And die for very shame.

RODOPE.
Had I a bosome like to thine,
When it I pleas'd to show,
T' what part o' th' Skie I would incline
I would make th' Etheriall bowe;
My swannish Breast brancht all with blew,
In bravery like the spring:
In Winter to the generall view
Full Summer forth should bring.

Dorida.
Had I a body like my deare,
Were I so straight so tall,
O, if so broad my shoulders were,
Had I a waste so small;
I would challenge the proud Queene of love
To yeeld to me for shape,
And I should feare that Mars or Jove
Would venter for my rape.

RODOPE.
Had I a hand like thee my Gerle,
(This hand O let me kisse)
These Ivory Arrowes pyl'd with pearle,
Had I a hand like this;
I would not doubt at all to make,
Each finger of my hand
To taske swift Mercury to take
With his inchanting wand.

DORIDA.
Had I a Theigh like Rodopes;
Which twas my chance to veiwe,
When lying on yon banck at ease
The wind thy skirt up blew,
I would say it were a columne wrought
To some intent Divine,
And for our chaste Diana sought,
A pillar for her shryne.

RODOPE.
Had I a Leg but like to thine
That were so neat, so cleane,
A swelling Calfe, a Small so fine,
An Ankle, round and leane,
I would tell nature she doth misse
Her old skill; and maintaine,
She shewd her master peece in this,
Not to be done againe.

DORIDA.
Had I that Foot hid in those shoos,
(Proportion'd to my height)
Short Heele, thin Instep, even Toes,
A Sole so wondrous straight,
The Forresters and Nimphes at this
Amazed all should stand,
And kneeling downe, should meekely kisse
The Print left in the sand.

By this the Nimphes came from their sport,
All pleased wondrous well,
And to these Maydens make report
What lately them befell:
One said the dainty Lelipa
Did all the rest out-goe,
Another would a wager lay
Shee would outstrip a Roe;
Sayes one, how like yee Florimel
There is your dainty face:
A fourth replide, she lik't that well,
Yet better lik't her grace,
She's counted, I confesse, quoth she,
To be our onely Pearle,
Yet have I heard her oft to be
A melancholly Gerle.
Another said she quite mistoke,
That onely was her art,
When melancholly had her looke
Then mirth was in her heart;
And hath she then that pretty trick
Another doth reply,
I thought no Nimph could have bin sick
Of that disease but I;
I know you can dissemble well
Quoth one to give you due,
But here be some (who Ile not tell)
Can do't as well as you,
Who thus replies, I know that too,
We have it from our Mother,
Yet there be some this thing can doe
More cunningly then other:
If Maydens but dissemble can
Their sorrow and their joy,
Their pore dissimulation than,
Is but a very toy.

[pp. 5-9]